'He is sad... I am sad' - Pep Guardiola laments Vincent Kompany's latest set-back
Vincent Kompany is one of the many for whom the end of 2016 cannot come soon enough. The Manchester City captain had already spent 37 weeks of the year out with a variety of injuries and now there is a fresh one to battle.
His manager, Pep Guardiola, revealed that Kompany picked up a knee ligament injury during Saturday’s 2-1 win at Crystal Palace and will be out for several more weeks. Kompany is being treated by Ramon Cugat, the Barcelona-based doctor whose team treated him for another knee injury after he broke down after 10 minutes of the Champions League semi-final with Real Madrid.
This is Kompany’s 35th separate injury since he came to Manchester City in 2008 and, given that Guardiola had serious doubts about his long-term prospects when he arrived at the Etihad Stadium, he is likely to step up the search for a replacement in the January transfer window.
Thus far Kompany’s involvement in City’s Premier League campaign has been 116 minutes of football stretched over three matches. For a man who can be counted one of Manchester City’s great players, his career appears to be closing amid pain and frustration.
The latest setback would, Guardiola estimated, cost the 30-year-old a minimum of four more weeks and it remains to be seen whether the club will think it worth including Kompany in their Champions League squad when the competition reopens in February.
As he prepared to face Borussia Monchengladbach, Guardiola pointed out that Manchester City had not yet qualified for the knockout phase of the competition, although a draw against a side whose Bundesliga form has collapsed should get them there.
“He is sad about it, of course,” said Guardiola of Kompany. “I am sad. He is a good chap and it is a long time that he doesn’t play. He is in the best hands and Dr Cugat will make the treatment as soon as possible. I am told it is not a serious knee ligament injury. A serious knee ligament injury would be six months. This is weeks.”
This is Manchester City’s first outing in the Champions League since the night they took Barcelona apart at the Etihad Stadium. It was said to be the night that the modern Manchester City arrived as a major European force. As he mulled over that game in the team hotel in Dusseldorf, Guardiola was inclined to play the result down.
Ilkay Gundogan, who grew up in Gelsenkirchen, around 30 miles away, was not so reserved. The man who seized control of the night said the 3-1 win over Barcelona was the result he and Guardiola’s Manchester City would always be judged by.
It should be said that Barcelona have a fairly indifferent record in England. Beating Barcelona in September 1997 – a team that included Guardiola - did not transform the Newcastle of Kenny Dalglish. When he was asked whether Manchester City were one of the favourites for this season’s Champions League, Guardiola gave a little smile and said it might take a decade before they could be put in that kind of bracket.
“We were so pleased and happy when we beat Barcelona but it was just a game,” said Guardiola, a man for whom a game is never ‘just a game’. “But, given the history of the club, we cannot be considered favourites. Look at the Spanish teams, they have played more games over so many more years.
“Hopefully, it will be shorter than 10 years but Manchester City spent 40 years not playing in Europe and you need time to get back to that level – and we are talking about Barcelona, Real, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich.
“We have been fighting to do that since Abu Dhabi took the club over and we have been investing – like all big clubs do – to reduce the distance between us. But history is history. It speaks for itself and it counts for a lot.
“I want to qualify from the groups and then concentrate on the Premier League and on teams like Liverpool and Chelsea. The Champions League has meant we have played eight games more than them and that is a lot.”
It was not the first time he mentioned those two clubs in his press conference. Their freedom from European football is something Guardiola returned to. The Manchester City manager is a man who suggests things rather than talks openly about them and Liverpool and Chelsea appear to be the two clubs he fears most.
Independent News Service